Friday, April 10, 2020
"Real" Life on Line
Today, April 10, makes 30th day of self-quarantine. March 26 was my birthday--my age now has at least one digit that's a 6. The above picture sums up that special day--my daughter sent me daisies, my husband went to Costco and scored toilet paper and...Well, the typewriter was my dad's, the one on which I wrote my first stories when I was in second grade. OK, it's symbolic. Writing is what I do. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing.
I've done a lot of thinking these past 30 days.
One day, you're bopping along, the embodiment of "Age is just a number." The next, the CDC has declared you officially "elderly" and "at risk" of the coronavirus. Who? What? Me? I felt extremely lucky to be sound in mind and body. Until the CDC told me,"We don't care what age you think you are. You're over 60 and we say you're in big trouble. And old."
So, why am I thinking and not writing?
I am a worrier by nature, even on the calmest of days. A world upended sends me spinning into outer space, like an astronaut who comes untethered during a space walk. (Think the movie Gravity, and that's me.)
Now, with my connection to the outside world is Face Time chats and texting, I need something more to keep me going. Biographies and memoirs are my favorite reading material. I'm especially fascinated by how people cope in impossible situations. Right now, I'm reading Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, about a family with twelve children, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Not applicable to writing, but helping to anchor me in my safe, if solitary existence.
Other people, other stories have arrived in my life, via my laptop (how else?)
From the Washington Post came this article by Sunny Fitzgerald (available only with subscription) about the guilt "of not working in the midst of crisis." Currently, my husband works from the kitchen table, solving "six impossible things before breakfast" and catching up on twenty years worth of home improvement jobs. He gets exasperated with my inactivity. I get exasperated with my inactivity. If nothing else, this article stopped my negative inner chatter.
I discovered The Storytellers Project through my morning read of USA Today. As a child, there was nothing I enjoyed more than my parents and grandparents telling me stories of about their childhoods. The Storytellers Project records everyday people, sharing their real, first person stories with an audience. They appear in USA Today every Thursday. This week's theme was "overcoming self-doubt, certainly helpful in a time where everything seems to be in doubt.
My friends are forever sending me writing links. This one from McSweeney's, "I Am Using My Free Time Not to Write a Novel" by Scott Bolohan is a snarky look at all of us stalled-out writers. It turned my current state into something not-so-serious, but with more than a hint of truth.
Finally, there is this episode of NPR's Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewing that Master of Writing-Every-Day-No-Matter-What, Stephen King. Like a lot of us, he is stuck in the house with a WIP that's been stalled for years. I have a feeling King's problem is not being "stalled" so much as having too many simultaneous WIP's. I've always secretly thought that King turns on his computer, leaves the room, returns in a couple of days and finds a finished novel. (He's never said that's not the case.) I always enjoy his interviews, which reassure me that while he is incredibly productive, he sounds like the rest of us...watching Netflix, taking out the garbage.
We are living in an open-ended nightmare. There is no end date. When someone does conjecture a date, my first thought is "So soon! Will it be safe then? Who knows what safe is." I know the world I "return" to will be unlike the like the one I left March 12, 2020.
And when we re-emerge to our new reality, I know there will be my friends online, sending me links and personal advice, to cope with what is.